Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

20th May 2013 13:05

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Robbie Deans reading

Not ideal preparation: Australia

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Australia, contingency planning, a curious coaching situation and Lions tour stay-at-home entertainment...

It's hardly a secret that this Lions tour represents the best chance the tourists have had of bringing home a series victory since Geech's 1997 vintage came away with the spoils from South Africa, but the extent of the disarray of the opposition is now becoming clearer every week.

The ARU is mired in financial uncertainty, worried at the lack of sponsorship for the Lions tour. There is publicly-voiced concern that Australia's brightest stars will be on pay cuts sooner or later.

There is the Kurtley Beale issue, which threatens to rob the Wallabies of one of their finest game-changing talents.

There is a very public rift between the coach incumbent and his would-be successor over how best to utilise the people's choice for fly-half of the national team, not to mention that fly-half's not-so-distant dismissal of the Wallabies' team atmosphere as 'toxic'.

Injuries are mounting too, with David Pocock already ruled out, Digby Ioane and George Smith looking doubtful and Tatafu Polota-Nau praying his bones heal quickly.

Yup, Australia are in trouble. And the Lions players are looking mighty sharp in training...


A central theme of many a book or interview written or given by All Blacks of the 2007 era is drop-goals. More pertinently, the failure to plan for or execute a drop-goal when it is absolutely needed. It's not a secret that it was a motivation behind Graham Henry's burning desire to have every last detail planned in advance, leading up to 2011.

Most teams have learned, but not, it seems, Clermont. For ten minutes they hurled themselves against the Toulon wall on Saturday, yet not once did there seem to be any kind of co-ordinated team movement designed to put themselves in the right position.

The one attempt was a clumsy one off slow ball, badly-delivered to a poor fly-half position. Otherwise, it was a repeat of that 2007 quarter-final all over again: extraordinary disciplined defence, disbelief on the part of the attack that they just couldn't get their own way, not enough preparation into plan B.

Which is what cost the Auvergnats their Heineken dream. A shame too, for after Delon Armitage's little sideshow during his try, you would have loved to have seen it rammed back down his smug little throat.


Heard the one about the fly-half who saw his position in the national team under serious and credible threat from a young upstart (and didn't like it one jot)? About how the upstart went on to become an even better player than the fly-half had been? And then about how the fly-half eventually became the upstart's coach?

How interesting is that dynamic going to be between Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O'Gara at Racing Metro next season?! It's no secret there was little love lost between the two during the battle for primacy of Ireland's number ten jersey, nor that public opinion favoured Sexton for much of the time O'Gara was first choice. Both swear blind there is friendship now, but old habits die hard.

Being as Sexton was generally outplaying O'Gara on many an occasion, you have to wonder how able Sexton is going to be at taking advice, or to whose tactics they will end up playing at crucial moments.

Sexton is virtually nailed-on to be number one fly-half on the Lions tour - something else O'Gara never quite got to. If that all works out fine and the Lions win, O'Gara is going to be in a no-win situation from the start at Racing. Doubtless he has much to pass on, but he may just have started his coaching career at the one place where he should have said no!


Finally, with the Lions tour coming up once more, the mystery Welsh twitterman Dai Lama has come up with another of his beer games to make life for those unable to tour in Oz just a little less miserable.

Read all about it here - and remember, these are early kick-offs...

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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